Who Is This Jesus? (Part 7): One Who Changes Us

We worship the Christ.

I was at the noonday eucharist service at my church this week, and the Gospel reading for the day was the passage where John the Baptist’s disciples come to ask Jesus if he is really the Messiah that has been promised. Jesus tells them: 

“Go back and tell John what you have just seen and heard: 

The blind see,

The lame walk, 

Lepers are cleansed,

The deaf hear,

The dead are raised,

The wretched of the earth

have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them.” 

— Luke 7:18-23

I started thinking about the testimony Jesus gave here about himself. He was, in one sense, declaring himself to be the fulfillment of prophecy about the promised Messiah. But in another sense, I saw that he was declaring himself to be someone who changes the people who come in contact with him. 

When I reflect on my own life and journey with Jesus, I see that he is indeed one who has changed me. I am not the same person I was ten years ago, five years ago, one year ago, or even last week! The more I spend time with Jesus, getting to know him and being in regular relationship with him, the more I notice that I am becoming a new person. The process feels like something happening to me, rather than something I direct myself.

In this sense, it really is Jesus doing the changing in me.

How has Jesus changed me? He has softened my edges. He has placed compassion in my heart. He has given me a greater ability to hold seemingly contradictory truths at one time without feeling the need to resolve them. He has increased my patience and my love for people. He has strengthened my desire to love and serve others. He has helped my life to become less about me. 

Above all else, he has made me fall more and more in love with him. 

What about you? How has Jesus changed you as you’ve lived your life with him? Or what change does he seem to be about in you right now?


Postnote #1: My apologies for the lack of consistent posts here in this space this week. We’ve been preparing to go out of town for the holidays! I will be posting here while on the road over the next couple weeks, but the posting schedule will be altered from the usually intended “five posts per week” to a schedule of “as our travels and wi-fi connectivity allow.” Thanks for your understanding.

Postnote #2: I will be offering the Look at Jesus course again in the new year! Registration will open on January 2, and the course will begin January 16. If you’ve found the posts in this series on Jesus meaningful, perhaps the Look at Jesus course would be a fitting next step for you. More details to come once registration opens on January 2!

Who Is This Jesus? (Part 6): One Who Calls


I find it interesting that Jesus calls each person to follow him but that each call is particular.

Following Jesus can take a multitude of forms, but each life that follows Jesus involves a true encounter with Jesus, a mutual knowing of the truth of who we are before him, and an ability to hear and respond to what he asks or invites of us from there.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector, for instance. (See Luke 19:1-10.) He was the chief tax collector in his town, in fact, which meant he was very rich at the expense of everyone else. The tax collectors were notoriously crooked, demanding greater taxes than the state required so as to line their own pockets with the difference. 

He was not very popular, to say the least. 

But when Jesus called Zacchaeus, it made a difference in the specific way he lived. He determined to give half his riches to the poor and pay back those he had wronged financially four-fold. 

Then there’s Peter.

Peter was a fisherman all his life. Fishing is what he knew best and how he made a living. And when Jesus called Peter to follow him, it affected Peter’s life: “From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women” (Luke 5:10). And then later on, Jesus shifted Peter’s work again, telling him he would now become a shepherd: “Feed my lambs … Shepherd my sheep … Feed my sheep,” he told Peter (John 21:15-18).

What did Peter know about sheep-tending? He had been a fisherman all his life. 

But since that initial call to follow Jesus, he had learned more about what that following meant. He’d followed Jesus around for three years. He’d listened to Jesus teach, watched Jesus heal, witnessed so many miracles, and encountered the resurrected Christ. He’d been humbled and forgiven. And now it was time for Peter’s specific way of following Christ to become more particular to the person he’d become since that first call, so he was now being called to be a shepherd. 

The gospels are filled with stories like this. Each person, each encounter, each question, each search … every story is the encounter of a particular person coming in contact with Jesus and receiving an invitation to a particular call.

For someone who encountered Jesus in the midst of a particular sin, the call was to go and sin no more. For someone who’d been paralyzed their whole life, the call was to take up their mat and walk. For someone who was a social outcast because of their lifestyle and avoided contact with others at all costs, the call was to go into the town square and proclaim what had happened to everyone there. And, like Peter, the more we follow Christ, the more our particular call shifts as we continue becoming the people Jesus is continually making us to be.

Jesus invites us to follow him, and he tailors the call of that invitation to the place we currently are.

What does it look like for you to follow Jesus in this very moment? What is the particular call from him, right where you are?

Who Is This Jesus? (Part 5): One Who Sees the Truth and Gazes On It With You


Henri Nouwen talks about prayer of the heart being a way of prayer in which we “descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you.” 

Imagine that: going into the very truth of yourself and seeing what is there, while simultaneously knowing Jesus to be there, too, gazing on what is there with you. 

You may find this terrifying. And I think I did for many years in my life with God, too. We are often scared of the truth of ourselves, and inviting the God of the universe to see that truth with us can seem like a purely crazy thing to do. 

Unless our view of the truth and our view of God with us in that encounter of truth changes.

I really love noticing the way Jesus encounters people in the pages of the gospels when considering this.

When Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well, he’s fully present to the conversation. He listens and genuinely responds to everything she says to him and asks of him. And then, in the midst of this conversation, he speaks the truth of her life to her: she has had five husbands and is now living with a man who isn’t her husband.

First she finds out that all this time he’s been talking to her, he’s known this truth about her and still continued the conversation. And then, when he speaks this truth out loud, he does so in such a measured tone.

There’s no condemnation in his words, only the spoken truth. 

And what’s more, even after he speaks this truth to her out loud — the truth that made her an outcast in her community — he goes on to continue their conversation. 

This must have totally turned the woman’s world upside-down.

Not only did someone speak to her without flinching or castigating her for the thing that made her a social pariah, but the person behaving this generously toward her, she soon came to find out, was the long-awaited Messiah. No wonder she ran into the village and started telling everyone she met about him!

And then there’s the example of the woman caught in adultery.

When the Pharisees dragged this woman before Jesus, his eyes don’t blaze in fury, nor does he hurl her from his presence in disgust. Instead, he kneels down and begins to write in the dirt with his finger — so calm and unobtrusive a response — while continuing to listen to the badgering crowd.

Then he makes a calm-as-can-be comment to them, straightens up, and asks the woman where her accusers have gone. 

Just like what happened with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus has a direct encounter with this woman who was standing before him in the naked, unhidden truth of her sin, and his response was not to flee or rail or turn away in disgust or cast her from his presence. Instead, he calmly and quietly asked her a question as they hold the truth of her life out in the open between them. 

There is a calmness to Jesus in these encounters that teaches us so much about what it is really like to encounter the truth of ourselves with Jesus, too. 

Jesus is not afraid of the truth of your heart. He will not turn away from any of the truth that you encounter there. He will not minimize it or pretend it isn’t there, either. He will look at it, and then he will look at you, and then the two of you will look at it together. 

And then you’ll talk. And you’ll continue to talk. And his posture toward you will never change.

Who Is This Jesus? (Part 4): One Who Removes Our Shame

Delicate and loved.

Today I’m going to share with you a part of my story I don’t write often about. It has to do with my having been married before sharing my life with Kirk.

In 2004, I went through a divorce. 

We had been married 6 years, the last year of which was spent with about six states separating us, and the marriage and divorce are among the most difficult parts of the journey I have lived.

I can look back now and see the whole of it through a lens of healing and forgiveness — both of which were quite hard-won — and I can also see that neither of us knew much about what we were doing in our life together but were doing the best we could with what we had.

Today, I want to talk about the impact the divorce had on me and how it affected my life with God and my understanding of Jesus.

I remember how precious that year of separation and the first six months of my divorce were in my life with God. I was living on my own for the first time and had rented a tiny guesthouse in the historic district near my hometown. Every day, I would go in and out of my little guesthouse, conscious that I was learning what it meant to be the bride of Christ instead of someone else’s bride.

I was learning through that time, too, what it meant to be feminine and lovely to God, and so I began to wear clothes that deepened my ongoing awareness of that reality: pants in pastel colors of pinks and greens and purples, with various textures like velvet and corduroy and appliques like satin sash belts. I wore layers of blouses and jackets, too, and enjoyed the detail of ruffles and pearl buttons and chiffon overlays of my clothing.

And almost every night before bed, I would settle into my little twin bed inside that tiny guesthouse and read the words of Psalm 139 over and over again.

In all of this, I knew that God was teaching me my value.

But even still, underneath all that tender engagement with God, there was a seed of shame. 

No matter how much I had fought against divorce, still here I was: divorced. I was divorced without having chosen to be so, and I could do nothing to change it. Divorce seemed like the worst possible outcome for my marriage, and I couldn’t imagine the depth of God’s disappointment when he looked down upon me and saw that blight upon my life. 

I felt at a loss for how to hold this, and so at some point, I sat down with a pastor from my church to talk about it.

We sat on a planter outside the church after one of the services, and I told him how ashamed I felt. I told him that it seemed like the whole of my life going forward from here was counterfeit, since I was walking a path God never would have chosen for me.

God was in Plan A, but the divorce had averted me to Plan B — so now what worth could my life have to God?

I’ll never forget what the pastor said to me that day.

He looked at me and said, “Christianne, when God looks down from heaven at you, he doesn’t say, ‘There’s Christianne, my divorced daughter.’ He says, ‘There’s Christianne, my daughter.’ He doesn’t see your divorce. That’s what Jesus died for.” 

This was the first time what Jesus did on the cross really clicked for me. 

So much of my life, as I’ve shared before, had to do with perfectionism and performing well. I had sinned, definitely, and had asked forgiveness for my sins. But since everything I did was driven by a motive to outshine every possible standard, my heart never really got in touch with the depth of my humanity or sinfulness.

What’s more, the especially difficult sins in my life were practically invisible to me — I couldn’t hold the truth of them because that truth was too painful to admit. 

This is why I couldn’t understand grace. And that is why, in that single conversation with my pastor, I understood grace for the very first time. 

The reality of Christ’s death on the cross removes every single mark of shame upon our lives. Because of Jesus, we can now live in pure, unadulterated, enjoyable communion with God.

This is something that makes me amazed and in awe of Jesus.

Who Is This Jesus? (Part 3): One Who Made & Delights in Us

Out came the watercolor paints today.

I mentioned earlier in this series that I was just about to enter my junior year in college when I came face to face with a truth about my lifelong faith: I didn’t really understand it in a personal way. One of the most true and heartfelt prayers that I’d ever uttered up to that point came out: “God, please teach me my need for Jesus and for grace.” 

This took me on a very long journey. 

Through the reading of that book and the realization that I really didn’t get what grace really was, I started to examine so much about my life — the way I felt, the way I thought, the way I acted, and what was underneath all of that feeling and thinking and acting. 

I became quite overwhelmed with the realities I encountered inside of me. For about two years, I went deep inside myself to learn what was there. And what I learned — which I’d not really grappled with before — was how much everything I did was rooted in perfectionism and performance. Everything — and I mean everything — was tied to an urgent need to do things perfectly, to shine, and to be loved in all that shininess. 

This bled into my life with God, too. 

Once I saw that my life with others and with God was based so wholistically on performance, I put on the brakes. I stopped doing. I stopped performing. I stopped going, going, going. I barely went to church. I stopped connecting to God in the usual ways I’d always done. I let myself curse out loud for the first time in my adult life, and I contemplated what it would be like to take up smoking. (This may sound silly, but it’s true.)

All of this was part of a lived prayer: God, show me that you love me beyond my performance. Teach me what it means to be unconditionally loved by you. 

Two years into this journey, I graduated college and started working full-time. Pretty quickly out of the gate, I was working two jobs — one full-time and one part-time — and I came face to face with the reality of my anxiety struggle

I think I was made acutely aware of my anxiety struggle at that time because I’d spent the previous two years realizing how performance-based my entire life had been. I was in the midst of trying to learn God’s unconditional love for me instead — how to be loved beyond my functions and accomplishments — but was suddenly working 60+ hours every week and trying to learn how to be a professional for the very first time.  

Cue anxiety and struggle and pain and turmoil and fear. Every. Single. Day.

One night, I spent an evening with a group of female college students. They were enrolled in the honors program for which I was the adjunct faculty director of the writing program. They were hosting a discussion night with all the female faculty of the program, and each of the faculty were invited to bring one of our favorite books around which to host a small group discussion with the female students. 

At the time, my favorite book was Denise Levertov’s collection, The Stream and the Sapphire, so I photocopied a few of my favorite poems from the collection and headed to the event. The female population of the program were milling about, chatting with each other and the other faculty, and I could feel the anxiety in me begin heighten. (I really am no good at small talk events.)

Then, shortly before the event was set to begin, one of the student coordinators approached me and asked if I would be willing to share my discussion group with another faculty member’s group, as only one person had signed up for my group. 

Ouch. That was a humbling moment. 

Another humbling moment came in the midst of the actual discussion group. The other faculty member had been able to generate with seeming ease quite a bit of discussion around the book she’d brought, even though no one in the group had read it before, but the discussion of the poems I had brought, despite having brought several for us to look at together, seemed to fall flat. 

I left the event feeling so much shame. 

On my drive home down the 5 freeway, I cried so hard.

I yelled at God: “What do you want from me? How do I do this? You say that you love me unconditionally, but I don’t know what that means. All I feel is failure and embarrassment. I don’t feel like I’ll ever be good enough. I don’t know how to get outside of this performance struggle.”

And somehow in the midst of all those tears and verbal explosions, something new happened. 

I can’t explain how it happened, but suddenly I was in the middle of an invitation to consider all the ways that God had made me — unique and creative and particular-to-me ways of being. 

My care for people. 

My ability to listen well. 

My love of writing. 

My enjoyment of sushi.

My fear of spiders. 

All of these particularities about myself started coming to mind, and I realized consciously for the first time: God made me this way, and all these particulars — no matter how big or small in size — delight him to no end. They’re what make me uniquely Christianne. 

When I exited the freeway, I pulled into a fast-food parking lot, dried my eyes, and marveled at this new realization. God loves me for who I am.

Scripture tells us that Jesus is the origin of all creation. It says that everything came into being through him and that nothing came into existence without him (see John 1:3 and Colossians 1:15-18).

We were created by and through Jesus. And what he created in us — who we simply are — delights him endlessly.

Who Is This Jesus? (Part 2): One Who Is Humble

Welcome to advent.

I’ve just begun reading the book of Revelation as part of my morning devotions. This is the book, perhaps above any other book in Scripture, where we see the holiness, the majesty, the utter God-ness of Jesus. He centrally figures above all else — high above all else — in that narrative. All else in existence falls at his feet and worships him. 

He is truly the highest height of all awareness and existence, and Revelation demonstrates that reality with such clarity for us.

With the start of the Advent season just over a week ago, we are invited to notice an interesting contrast here. These four weeks leading to Christmas are a time of preparation and expectation, a time when we think about the coming of Jesus into the world as a babe on Christmas and as the savior of the world, while also looking ahead — and continuing to prepare ourselves — for his return.

Revelation depicts with such rich imagery that second return of Jesus into the world. There, we will see the fullness of his majesty and reign. We will see how truly great he is. We will see him as the ruler and origination of all that exists in creation.

But this morning, it is the humility of Jesus in his first coming that I’m reminded of. 

On a particular night, at a particular time, in a particular place, and in a particular body, Jesus became human. He became human — just like us. And he chose to start at the beginning, as a baby — just like we do.

What is that about?

Why would the highest crown of all existence become enfleshed in human form — and in the form of a baby, no less? Why would he choose to develop in a body the same way all of us must develop in our own bodies, one limb after another growing into itself with each passing year? Why would he choose to learn a language from its first stammers and stutters, just as all of us must learn our own languages from the start? Why would he let go of all the knowledge of all existence that he holds inside himself, only to start from scratch in knowing nothing, building one structure of thought and knowledge on top of itself, just like we must do?

It was — and is — for love of us. His love for us created a willing humility.

We will continue to reflect on that love in the continuation of this series. I hope you’ll continue to join us.

Who Is This Jesus? (Part 1)

Moss and light.

Click here to read all entries in this series.

I will confess that I didn’t realize I would be writing a series on this Jesus I’ve come to know until the post that introduced that series had pretty much written itself last Friday. Sometimes that happens — I pray about what to write here, and then once I start writing it, something extra comes out I didn’t expect.

This new series on Jesus happened that way.

So I’ve been holding the newness of this series close the last few days, wondering what it will include and how to enter into it.

One of the big questions I’ve been holding is whether these reflections on Jesus will start in the Scriptures or in the experiences of my life (or both?). And I am still holding that question, and perhaps I will hold it every single day the series remains underway. Perhaps the answer Jesus gives to that question will be different from day to day. 

But for today, the answer to that question is to share a personal reflection of this Jesus I’ve come to know.

Accordingly, below are two video segments that I recorded recently for a project at Northland Church called Hope Changes. It is a project that marries stories from real-life people and the hope of Scripture as an offering to people walking through painful emotional and spiritual struggles, and I was privileged to work on the development team for this project over the last six months and also share my story as a contribution.

The two video segments below go together, then — the first segment shares a very personal struggle I’ve grappled with for many years, and the second segment shares stories of how Jesus has met me in that struggle in some very personal and very special ways. 

Part 1: 

Part 2: 

Jesus has become so dear to me. My hope is that, in some way, he also becomes dear to you, perhaps as we continue to reflect on him together.

Let's Reflect on Jesus

Heart of Christ.

I’m not sure if you know the story of how I came into an intimate relationship with Jesus. It’s a story that begins, in great measure, with a very honest prayer that rose up from my heart in August 1998. I was 19 years old, about to enter my junior year of college, and I had finally gotten around to reading a book that one of my professors had given me in a previous semester.

Reading that book changed my life.

It was not the book’s intention, I don’t think, to bring me face to face with my lack of understanding of grace and of Jesus, but that’s exactly what it did. One afternoon, while sprawled on top of my bed in my apartment, reading the book, that realization became so real that the book fell from my hands and I bowed my head and confessed to God: “I don’t understand my need for grace, and I don’t understand my need for Jesus.” 

I had known Jesus my whole life. I don’t have any memory of life without him, in fact. I was always aware of his presence near me, even as a very, very young girl. But the circumstances of my life and some of the natural proclivities of my way of being conspired to take me on a very long journey — the long way around, you might say — to finally understanding my personal need for both. 

I’ve been reflecting on that very honest prayer of 13 years ago a lot lately. I’ve been struck by God’s incredible faithfulness to answer it. I think God continues to answer it every day, in fact, because my awareness of my need for grace and for Jesus only continue to grow. 

Why am I sharing this with you? 

Because my life and mind and heart are full — so full — of Jesus these days, and I want you to know this Jesus, too. 

For the next little while, I am going to be using the daily posts in this space to reflect on this Jesus I have come to know. It is my prayer that these reflections will create an opportunity for you to know him, too, if you do not know him yet — or simply to reflect on the Jesus you have come to know, if you already know him, too.